• • •

He’s kissing my shoulder. My cheek. My eye. He’s still on top of me, touching me gently. I’ve never been touched like this . . . with such tenderness. I try to forget what happened in the kitchen, but it’s everything right now.


He pushed me away from him.

Ryle pushed me.

For fifteen seconds, I saw a side of him that wasn’t him. That wasn’t me. I laughed at him when I should have been concerned. He shoved me when he should have never touched me. I pushed him away and caused him to cut his hand.

It was awful. The whole thing, the entire fifteen seconds it lasted, was absolutely awful. I never want to think about it again.

He still has the rag balled up in his hand and it’s soaked with blood. I push against his chest.

“I’ll be right back,” I tell him. He kisses me one more time and rolls off of me. I walk to the bathroom and close the door. I look in the mirror and gasp.

Blood. In my hair, on my cheeks, on my body. It’s all his blood. I grab a rag and try to wash some off, and then I look under the sink for the first aid kit. I have no idea how bad his hand is. First he burned it, then he sliced it open. Not even an hour after he was just telling me how important this surgery was to him.

No more wine. We’re never allowed vintage wine again.

I grab the box from under the sink and open the bedroom door. He’s walking back into the bedroom from the kitchen with a small bag of ice. He holds it up, “For your eye,” he says.

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I hold up the first aid kit. “For your hand.”

We both smile and then sit back down on the bed. He leans against the headboard while I pull his hand to my lap. The whole time I’m dressing his wound, he’s holding the bag of ice against my eye.

I squeeze some antiseptic cream onto my finger and dab it against the burns on his fingers. They don’t look as bad as I thought they might be, so that’s a relief. “Can you prevent it from blistering?” I ask him.

He shakes his head. “Not if it’s second-degree.”

I want to ask him if he can still perform the surgery if his fingers have blisters on them come Monday, but I don’t bring it up. I’m sure that’s on the forefront of his mind right now.

“Do you want me to put some on your cut?”

He nods. The bleeding has stopped. I’m sure if he needed stitches, he’d get some, but I think it’ll be fine. I pull the ACE bandage out of the first aid kit and begin wrapping his hand.

“Lily,” he whispers. I look up at him. His head is resting against the headboard, and it looks like he wants to cry. “I feel terrible,” he says. “If I could take it back . . .”

“I know,” I say, cutting him off. “I know, Ryle. It was terrible. You pushed me. You made me question everything I thought I knew about you. But I know you feel bad about it. We can’t take it back. I don’t want to bring it up again.” I secure the bandage around his hand and then look him in the eye. “But Ryle? If anything like that ever happens again . . . I’ll know that this time wasn’t just an accident. And I’ll leave you without a second thought.”

He stares at me for a long time, his eyebrows drawn apart in regret. He leans forward and presses his lips against mine. “It won’t happen again, Lily. I swear. I’m not like him. I know that’s what you’re thinking, but I swear to you . . .”

I shake my head, wanting him to stop. I can’t take the pain in his voice. “I know you’re nothing like my father,” I say. “Just . . . please don’t ever make me doubt you again. Please.”

He brushes hair from my forehead. “You’re the most important part of my life, Lily. I want to be what brings you happiness. Not what causes you to hurt.” He kisses me and then stands up and leans over me, pressing the ice to my face. “Hold this here for about ten more minutes. It’ll prevent it from swelling.”

I replace his hand with mine. “Where are you going?”

He kisses me on the forehead and says, “To clean up my mess.”

He spends the next twenty minutes cleaning the kitchen. I can hear glass being tossed into the trash can, wine being poured out in the sink. I go to the bathroom and take a quick shower to get his blood off of me and then I change the sheets on my bed. When he finally has the kitchen cleaned up, he comes to the bedroom with a glass. He hands it to me. “It’s soda,” he says. “The caffeine will help.”

I take a drink of it and feel it fizz down my throat. It’s actually the perfect thing. I take another drink and set it on my nightstand. “What’s it help with? The hangover?”

Ryle slides into bed and pulls the covers over us. He shakes his head. “No, I don’t think soda actually helps anything. My mom just used to give me a soda after I’d had a bad day and it always made me feel a little better.”

I smile. “Well, it worked.”

He brushes his hand down my cheek and I can see in his eyes and in the way he touches me that he deserves at least one chance at forgiveness. I feel if I don’t find a way to forgive him, I’ll somewhat be placing blame on him for the resentment I still hold for my father. He’s not like my father.

Ryle loves me. He’s never come out and said it before, but I know he does. And I love him. What happened in the kitchen tonight is something I’m confident won’t happen again. Not after seeing how upset he is that he hurt me.

All humans make mistakes. What determines a person’s character aren’t the mistakes we make. It’s how we take those mistakes and turn them into lessons rather than excuses.

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